On August 31, Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom halted gas flows to Europe via a major pipeline, Nord Stream, citing maintenance works on its only remaining compressor.
This is believed to be in response to new sanctions levied against Russia by the G7 nations, an informal group of seven of the world’s advanced economies, due to the Ukraine Crisis.
These sanctions imposed on Russia include the following: a full block on Russia’s largest financial institutions, Sberbank and Alfa Bank; the prohibition of new investments in the Russian Federation and making debt payments with funds subject to U.S jurisdiction; full blocking major Russian state-owned enterprises, as well as Russian elites and their family members; and prohibiting outside commitment to supporting sectors essential to humanitarian activities in Russia.
These sanctions have prompted retaliation by the Russian government, who cut off gas to Europe due to European dependency on Russian fossil fuels.
“Historically, European countries have relied on relatively cheap natural gas from Russia. Ninety percent of [their] natural gas is imported, and forty-five percent of that comes from Russia. So, the reduction in that supply… has driven up energy prices across Europe and led to what many are calling an energy crisis in Europe,” said Robert Cunningham, professor of economics.
In the perspective of the Russian government, “when Europeans have suffered enough, they will pressure their government to lift the trade embargo against Russia over the Ukraine war. [However, in the long run] Russia doesn’t benefit from this since they’re not selling their gas, so they’re causing themselves to suffer while also causing Europeans to suffer…it’s like a game of chicken.” said Britt Cartrite, professor of political science.
This might not be all bad for Europe. The reduction in Russian natural gas and fossil fuel exports can benefit the environment. As of 2020, Russia’s oil and gas industry led the world in methane emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.
If Europe loses its dependency on Russia’s natural gas, “this will accelerate their movement away from reliance on fossil fuels and prompt investment and innovation in alternative energy sources… [this will be] good for [Europeans] in the long run,” Cunningham said.
In brief, Russia has displayed numerous defensive and offensive actions politically, militaristically, and economically this year. This situation has brought a new light to modern warfare.
“Russians overestimate their capacity and underestimate Ukraine’s ability to resist, [due to] new technology, new tactics… every war kind of updates, but [the Russian government] got it really wrong,” said Cartrite.
The Russian government’s recent actions have undoubtedly caused unfortunate events amidst the citizens of Ukraine, Russia and some countries in Europe affected by the gas cuts. “We will continue working with our European partners to reduce dependence on Russian energy and support their efforts to prepare for further Russian destabilization of energy markets,” said Press Secretary Jen Psaki and a Deputy National Security Council spokesperson for International Economics.